Photography Galleries by Darcy Monchak                                                        Painting and Other Creations by Dawna-Lea
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OneSparrow Images BLOG


'Powerful Observatory'

"I have not yet accepted the physical existence of this extensively powerful observatory. It will remain a fantasy. Indeed, I do not wish to return to, accept, or realize the being of such a place, for memory and idols loose their divine quality once they are truly known / and one can never return to the womb".
Anonomous writing found decades ago in a logbook at the Tocher Lookout, backcountry of Yoho National Park.


This photo was taken at the time I found that writing. Unlike the author, I have returned to this place many times (after all, it's in my backyard), always finding something new, but perhaps never as good as that first visit. It's a gateway to as wild an area as can be found in these Rocky Mountains. Going back next spring, albeit slower than that first time.


'Paying Attention'

This is the time of year when bear sightings are frequent here in the Canadian Rockies. Spring finds these beautiful animals in the valley bottoms, foraging on fresh herbaceous vegetation. A young bear has much to learn from it's mom.




Imagine waking up here. You would have slept in one of those tents you can just see on the left. The red glow in the sky is approaching it's zenith, so it was worth getting up early in the cold air to see it unfold. Someone else at the campground is up and about because you can smell the coffee brewing. Simple is beautiful.

The road to this area in Yoho Park will open up next month. The next image posted will be a 180 degree turn-around from this spot, looking south.

This next image is a 180 degree turn-around from the image in the last post. This time you are looking south rather than north and it is evening rather than morning. At left is the thunder dragon itself, a waterfall of some renown called Takakkaw. Even though this image was taken a year ago, I can still hear it's power. In the distant middle stands Cathedral Mountain, which often has the best dramatic direct evening light compared to other nearby mountains. Lastly, to the right is Wapta mountain, on the other side of which are the renowned Burgess Shale fossil beds. A special place to spend an evening.

Both images are available printed as a set. You can purchase both images together at 20 % off our regular print pricing. Just e-mail us here as ask for the Takakkaw Campground North/South Combo.                               



Dawna-Lea wrapped up her paper-art project recently, and we were delighted to have a number of Golden residents come over to the D2 Studio/Gallery to take part in the paper-making workshop. Here's a short video of the project. Thanks to the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance for supporting this project!

If you would like to stay informed about creative workshops regarding outdoor photography or other hands-on art projects, please sign-up for our e-mail distribution list, and if you are so inclined, follow us on facebook!



Occasionally I'm asked about how an image was shot. For the most part, there's always some backstory or nuance that makes each image unique, whether it be location, technique or happenstance. This is the behind the scene story of how this american dipper image came into being.

Two pieces of information were used to determine location and timing. First, dippers love Opabin Basin - and there is a special spot where I always see them between spring and fall. Second, the larch turn yellow/gold in late September, which gives fabulous colour reflections to the waterways there. So, putting those two bits of info together, there I was in late September photographing dippers.

I spent some time watching for areas where dippers were landing. One particular dipper was always resting on a rock outcrop in the middle of a steam. One the east side of that stream, the yellow larch and green subalpine fir trees would be lit up by afternoon light. So I set up my equipment on the west side, allowing for a composition with enough room for the bird and it's reflection. The pattern in the water was beautiful.

After waiting for about 15 minutes with no dipper landings, it was obvious that I was too close. So, I set my inverlometer to automatically take an image every 5 seconds, and then walked about 15 meters away and watched. About 10 minutes and 120 images later, this image was taken. Most of the 100+ other images only had the rock and water. This was the only "keeper" image. Today, if taking the same image, I'd be using a remote wireless shutter release tool- something that has come on the market recently for about $50 bucks.

''Dipper Reflection'     400 mm lens, 1/500 second, F6.3



I'm constantly blown away by the quality of photography that one can find on the web. I'm not talking about the digital darkroom (computer) skills that many photographers have - I'm talking about the obvious dedication and vision that is brought to bear to capture outstanding images.

While that is all good, the plea that I would like to make is to see more experimentation with location. You see, iconic locations out there are like sirens to nature photographers. I too continue to hear their call, and am still drawn to them due to their beauty and often ease of access (you can often drive right to them here in the Canadian Rockies!). While it is perhaps a right of passage for nature photographes in the area to seek out these locations, the sheer volume and quality of images depicting their various nuances is huge.

There are some great new takes on these locations coming out that I find compelling - where the photographer has done something so completely different that I find myelf wishing to have done that myself, if I could. On the other hand, if the vision of the photographer does not offer that much new as compared to the myriad of images taken from these locations over the last decade, then there is nothing new to see.

So what to do? One option is to get even a bit farther out there. There are tons of areas that have yet to be photographed that are waiting for you. This image was taken from real close to a main access road, but at a place where I have not seen other images taken from. It just took a bit of looking around and visualizing.

''Yoho Looking Glass'



This image of three mountain caribou up high in the wilds of the Maligne Range of Jasper National Park was taken over a decade ago. Little did I know that in a short period of time, this would be the size of the entire herd, give or take one animal. While we knew they were in trouble back then, it was only last week that Parks Canada finally decided to impose some timid but important measures intended to help prevent extirpation of this herd. With only a few animals left, it may already be all over. It's too bad that it took so long to start doing the right thing to give them a better chance.

It's human nature that most of us care more about what is immediately in front of us. It is perhaps one of our greatest challenges to overcome - to enable more big picture thinking about where our world is going, where we want it to go, and how we each can help take it there.

''Fragile Kingdom', Jasper Nat'l Park



Winter is reaching out ahead of itself to lock up the beautiful Kicking Horse River at our home town of Golden, B.C. Ice levels have approached the bottom of the main highway bridge, and we are all watching... Despite that, it's hard to keep the camera in the bag on such a beautiful morning.

The mist was slowly rising as the sun came out, with what I think is a sundog rainbow on the right. A beautiful morning, mixed with apprehension about the high river ice levels.

''Ice Flow', Golden, B.C.


'See, Oh, Too'

This summer Darcy hiked into what is now one of the largest lakes of Yoho Park in the Canadian Rockies. It has appeared from nowhere in less than 10 years, the result of meltwater from the Des Poilus glacier. Ten years ago, it was but a small pond at the toe of the glacier. Look out Emerald Lake, soon you may be Yoho's second biggest!




September 24th was a rainy day at Lake Louise. Even so, the number of people visiting here was overwhelming to a photographer more used to solitude than society. Raindrops on the lake cast beautiful circular ripples, a pattern enhanced as passersby opened their umbrellas.

This was a place of human movement, where most people wandered the paved shoreline. So much to look at. Much more to see.

Back in 1980 a favourite photographer of mine, Galen Rowell, published a book whose title was inspired by a chance conversation with a Tibetan monk, who tells Galen, "Many people come, looking, looking. No good. Some people come, see. Good.

''Taking Time', Banff National Park



It's the highest waterfall in Yoho National Park, a park with many waterfalls. It's the highest waterfall in the entire Canadian Rockies. With a freefall measuring in the hundreds of meters, Takakkaw Falls is a force of nature that has a habit of putting things in perspective for the thousands of people who visit it each year. Fed by the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield, the volume of water coming down is scary when you are up close at peak meltwater in July. As a photographer, I like a bit of scary and as such planned a photo shoot of the falls this July on one of those hot sunny days we all wish we could live over again.

Takakkaw Falls has been photographed from all sorts of different angles and perspectives. It's a bit of a challenge to capture something different, so I wanted get close and get the best light possible. Timing the photo for when the last most orangey rays of the sun still hit the top of the falls in the evening, I donned the raingear, put on my longest lens and felt the temperature drop a good 10 degrees while walking from the parking lot to as close to the base of the falls as possible while still being able to see the inflow of water at the top right.

The base of the falls has it's own weather, and I took images as the cycles of calm to severe wind and walls of spray allowed. The noise from the falls was huge, like thunder. Between that thunder and moisture, it felt like a world apart. I took a series of exposures, experimenting with what would look best.

Have you ever landed in a remote area via helicopter and then experienced the sense of isloation as it flew away? That's the feeling I had, but in reverse, after spending an hour at the base of those falls and then doing the short hike back to the parking lot. For that hour I was all alone, isolated by the noise and moisture, then within minutes there were literally hundreds of people. Thanks, Thunder Dragon.

'Takakkaw - Thunder Dragon'




As most nature photographers in national parks know, you need a permit to overnight in the backcountry. In addition, most of the backcountry is off limits to random camping - meaning that one usually has to stay in designated campsites when backpacking there. I think that is a great policy to maintain. But it results in elimination of many mouth watering locations for rabid early morning and late evening landscape photographers.

One way of reconciling this issue is to set up camp in one of those designated campsites, and then via headlamp (always take two) make forays in or out of your previously selected photography spot. I've done this many times, and it often gives great experiences. Travelling alone on a mountain trail in the dark can also scare the shit out of you, as your mind is tuned to try and cipher any wayward sound, any spotlit imaginitive face, any alien movement. And that would all be without coffee.

That said, I'll admit that another way I've gained access to some of these backcountry photographic spots is to camp as close as possible to them. That's right, I'm coming clean. I've set up my tent camp within 100's of meters of a chosen photography spot in a National Park, enabling great opportunity for early morning or late evening images. You see, it's all a matter of location, location , location.

National Parks have borders. That means they are adjacent to some other land designation. Having been a land manager for over 20 years in the Golden, B.C. area (which is adjacent to Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Glacier national parks), I have some idea of the ensuing geography and access. It is important to know that such provincial areas usually have no or minimal restriction of where one can set up a tent camp for a couple of days to do some personal photography or hiking. Overlapping these legally accessible provincial areas with national park photography location ideas was easy to do, and has enabled tent camps within 100's of meters of where my tripod legs would subsequently be while taking in great early morning or late evening events. Such remote areas as Amiskwi Pass and the Otterhead Valley in Yoho Park, and Wolverine Pass in Kootenay Park can be explored in 'a new light' in this way. If you do it, just make sure you know where the boundaries are, camp respectfully and know the rules for the land you are camping on.

'Wolverine Pass and the Rockwall', Kootenay National Park. Note - my tentcamp was over and down from the rise at extreme right of the image, in the Golden TSA.


Nature Photography and Painting of the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia
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